Today I’m excited to share a guest post from Paul Smith, author Sell with a Story.

One of the most important stories a salesperson can tell is a “How We’re Different From Our Competitors” story. Instead of a boring and unremarkable list of me-too reasons your company is better, the story illustrates those differences in a more compelling, understandable and believable way.

Here’s an example from Sharad Madison, CEO of United Building Maintenance (UBM), a commercial cleaning services company.

When talking to a prospective client, Sharad doesn’t just say that his company has the “highest quality” or “is the most professional” or “uses the most technologically advanced equipment.” He shows his prospect those things through a story. This story…

When we took over the contract for the Verizon building in New Jersey, we had a 30-day transition period. We took that time to go walk the floors and observe what the current cleaning staff was doing—to find out if they’re properly trained and have the right tools.

It’s a 1.7-million-square-foot property across several buildings. And the corridors are huge. We went to see the guy who vacuums the carpet and found him using a regular household vacuum cleaner. Those hallways are 12 feet wide and over half a mile long! Can you imagine trying to clean it with the same machine you use at home? It would take all night, and it still wouldn’t be very clean. We ordered him a triple-wide, industrial-strength cleaner that will do the job in less than half the time and last forever.

We found someone else shampooing those same carpets with a regular walk-behind shampooer. Again, that could take all night just to shampoo that one corridor. We put him in a high-speed riding shampooer that could do the job in a fraction of the time, with much better results. And it gets him off his feet.

Then we got to the offices and started looking at the top of the file cabinets. You could see half-moons swiped out on top of otherwise dusty cabinet tops. I know exactly what that means, so we went to find the people who dust those cabinets.

When we found them, my suspicion was confirmed. Those cabinets were 51⁄2 feet tall and several of the cleaners were shorter than that. They weren’t lazy. They just couldn’t reach high enough with their handheld rags to clean the whole cabinet top. That’s what leaves the half-moon shape. The truth is, they’d be better off not cleaning it at all, since the contrast between the dusty part and the clean part makes it apparent that it’s dirty. We gave them all extension wands so they could reach all the way to the back.

Sharad’s goal obviously isn’t to be the cheapest cleaning service in town. His goal is to be the best. Telling a prospect that UBM “aims for operational excellence in all that they do” won’t communicate that very effectively. Telling this story does.

Take the time to develop your own “How We’re Different From Our Competitors” story. Pick a scenario and describe how your company would handle it versus your competitor. Share that story with your next prospect instead of your list, or in addition to the list.

To learn more about selling with stories, check out Paul’s latest book, Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale. Paul spent the last two years interviewing professional sales and procurement people at over 50 organizations around the world, including Microsoft, Costco, Xerox, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hewlett Packard, Kroger, Huntington Bank, Children’s Hospital, and more.

You’ll read dozens of compelling sales stories like this one, plus you’ll learn the 25 sales stories all sales people need, how to structure the story, add elements of emotion and surprise, and tell stories with data. You’ll even learn how to embellish a story without stretching the truth, and what it is about a sales pitch that makes it sound like a sales pitch and how to avoid that.

About the Author

Paul Smith is a former director and 20-year veteran of the Procter & Gamble Company, and one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and the bestselling author of three books on harnessing the power of storytelling for some of the most important work we do as humans: Lead with a Story, Parenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story. He can be found at www.leadwithastory.com.

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